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Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) will be delayed until at least October 2025.

In an update on DRS to Scottish Parliament, Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said that “overwhelming feedback” from businesses revealed that they would not be ready for a DRS on its planned launch date in March 2024.

The scheme was due to come into effect in March 2024, following a delay from August 2023 in order to provide time for businesses to get ready.

Slater said the lack of certainty over conditions put forward by the UK government meant the scheme had to be delayed until October 2025.

She stated that the UK government has imposed a number of highly significant conditions on the scheme, including the removal of glass and the requirement to align aspects of the scheme with schemes across the UK – none of which exist at the moment or have regulations in place.

Slater also criticised the UK government of acting in bad faith over its approach to DRS.

“These delays and dilutions lie squarely in the hands of UK Government that has sadly seemed so far more intent on sabotaging this parliament than protecting our environment.”

Despite the latest delay, Slater pledged that DRS in Scotland would happen.

“I remain committed to interoperable DRS schemes across the UK provided that we can work in a spirit of collaboration not imposition. I wrote again last night to the UK Government, to urge ministers to reset a climate of trust and good faith to galvanise and retain the knowledge that has been built in Circularity Scotland and DRS partners in Scotland.

“This Parliament voted for a Deposit Return Scheme. I am committed to a Deposit Return Scheme. Scotland will have a Deposit Return Scheme. It will come later than need be. It will be more limited than it should be. More limited than Parliament voted for.”

Circularity Scotland chief executive David Harris expressed disappointment at the decision to delay DRS. “This is clearly a disappointing outcome, which will have a significant impact on investment in Scotland. We have made it clear that industry was prepared for the Deposit Return Scheme to go live in March 2024, and that a scheme without glass is both economically viable and is an opportunity for Scotland to provide a platform for a UK-wide DRS. Regrettably, further delaying the introduction of DRS will hinder Scotland’s progress towards net zero and mean that billions of drinks containers continue to end up as waste.

“The Board of Circularity Scotland will now consider the impact of this announcement and our immediate priority will be communicating with our people. We will provide further updates in due course.”

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman added: “It has become increasingly clear that a workable DRS system, interoperable with future schemes in the rest of the UK, cannot be put in place by March 2024. This is disappointing, but it is the right decision to work towards the launch of interoperable schemes across the UK in October 2025.

“It is absolutely essential that the governments of the UK work together to introduce a scheme that works for everyone, is effective at increasing recycling rates, and does not impose unnecessary conditions on the retailers that will be delivering the scheme on the ground.”

Premier retailer and Federation of Independent Retailers national deputy vice president Mo Razzaq, said: “It makes sense for the Scottish government to decide now to launch at the same time as the rest of the UK, because we are far from confident the deeply flawed Scottish scheme will be ready by its most recent launch date of March 2024. Businesses are angry and seriously short-changed because of the continuing confusion.

 “We understand the desire to progress plans combating litter and waste of the earth’s resources but with now only one year between launch in Scotland and launch in the rest of the UK, the case is far from compelling. We call on the developers of the scheme for Wales, England, Northern Ireland and now Scotland to avoid the mistakes made in Scotland but still progress as quickly as possible to meet the urgent need for less litter and less waste of the earth’s resources.

“As planning has not progressed well in Scotland, we can see the case for dropping the ambitious objective of including glass from the very beginning. Most other countries in Europe have phased in glass sometime after the launch of the core part of their return schemes. As it takes much energy to produce glass, we would urge the four nations of the UK to consider a scheme whereby drinks companies refill and reuse bottles multiple times rather than sending them to be crushed after one use.”

He added: “It is essential that retailers in Scotland who have entered into leasing contracts for machines to process returned bottles and cans, are compensated for their losses of around £4,000 a year, in addition to service charges and shop refitting to accommodate the machines.”